In 2008-09, Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa fielded a weakened side against CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Cup; essentially chucking the tie in order to concentrate on… qualifying for next season’s UEFA Cup. It was certainly a sign of the times and emphasized how long-term financial gain has come to take priority over on-field achievements.
Back when the Premier League was a more even playing field – primarily due to the fact that it was poorer (both financially and in a footballing sense) – a plethora of different sides would find themselves in the upper echelons of the top-flight on an annual basis.
For a long time, the riches of the Champions League were reserved for the, well, Champions, and the financial pressure of finishing in the top 4 simply wasn’t an issue – teams who knew they couldn’t realistically win the league focused on the cups. In 2002, England were granted 4 seats at Europe’s top table and the importance of being one of the quartet changed English football forever and can be cited as the primary reason for the FA Cup’s ever-declining importance.
However, what if The Premier League had always rewarded the top 4 with Champions League football? Would a chasm between the bigger and smaller teams opened up sooner? Would the ‘bigger’ clubs we are familiar with today be completely different?
Watch the video above to see the four teams who would have benefitted.